Today, Toronto City Council approved CaféTO program changes needed to make the popular program permanent and actions to support Toronto’s small businesses. Council approved amendments to Chapter 742, Sidewalk Cafés, Parklets and Marketing Displays, which advance the transition of CaféTO from a temporary emergency response initiative into a sustainable City of Toronto program that makes Toronto’s streets more attractive, safe and accessible, while continuing to allow restaurants and bars to operate with expanded space outdoors.
The permanent program will introduce uniform platforms for accessibility, and fees to ensure the long-term sustainability of the program. In recognition of the challenges faced by small businesses, restaurants and bars, Council voted for several measures to assist with the transition to a permanent program.
To support CaféTO operators, the City will reduce all permit and application fees by 66 per cent this year. These fees, which were waived by Council between 2020 and 2022 to support the industry, will be phased in over three years with the full amount to be charged in 2025. Council has also asked staff to study creating an additional fee tier for businesses that do not have a liquor license or provide food service. Updated fees for curb lane cafés and sidewalk cafés are designed to encourage co-investment with the City in the program from restaurant and bar owners while supporting the viability of the cafés in curb lanes and on sidewalks.
CaféTO operators will be required to install temporary platforms in curb lane café permit areas to ensure curb lane cafés are fully accessible and meet other program objectives.
Council also approved a transition period to give restaurants and bars until August 1 to install platforms if needed, allowing restaurant operators to use their permitted curb lane café area by deploying temporary ramps into curb lane café areas from the sidewalk until platform installation.
Grant programs are also available to assist businesses and BIAs participating in the CaféTO program.
The City has supported CaféTO with more than $20 million in funding over the life of the program so far. A 2022 economic impact study from Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) found that the program delivered $203 million in economic benefits to Toronto in 2022, and that customers spent an estimated $179 million dining at CaféTO patios from May through September.
Through the CaféTO Property Improvement Program, $1,500,000 is now available to support operators with the cost of installing a temporary platform, an increase of $1,000,000 from the original $500,000 available. This program will match 50 per cent of the cost of eligible patio space improvements, including costs associated with renting, leasing or purchasing accessible temporary platforms, up to a maximum of $7,500. This program is funded by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) and is part of the Toronto Main Street Recovery and Rebuild Initiative (MRRI).
The City’s BIA CaféTO grant program will also continue this year and support planter maintenance and curb lane closure design. BIAs are eligible to receive up to $5,000.
The CaféTO program began in 2020 to help bar and restaurant operators during the pandemic by providing safe, expanded outdoor dining areas in the public right-of-way while indoor dining capacities were restricted. In late 2021, Council approved a plan to transition many of CaféTO’s temporary processes into a permanent program, starting with a return to standard sidewalk café permitting and a streamlined administration and application process. 1,327 establishments across Toronto participated in CaféTO in 2022.
In addition to making CaféTO permanent, in 2023, the City will continue to provide a 15 per cent reduction in the municipal property tax rate for eligible small business properties.
More information about the CaféTO Property Improvement Program grant is available on the CaféTO Property Improvement Program webpage.
“The CaféTO program is a success story for our city and I am thrilled to see how it is evolving and improving as a permanent program. The changes approved today will ensure that patio installations are beautiful, active and accessible, while also providing a much-needed grace period for businesses as we work together to transition into a permanent and sustainable program that can be enjoyed by all for years to come.”
– Mayor John Tory
“Cafés across Toronto are neighbourhood staples that bring locals and visitors coming back day after day. Through the Main Street Recovery and Rebuild Initiative, the Government of Canada has provided small businesses with funding to help them grow and thrive. With our support, the changes to the CaféTO program will ensure that local small business owners can achieve their goals, attract more people, and help grow their local economy.”
– The Honourable Filomena Tassi, Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario
“I am confident that CaféTO operators will be supported through these necessary program changes that will ensure this program remains successful in supporting local businesses while also making Toronto’s streets a more vibrant, fun and welcoming place to be.”
– Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie (Scarborough-Rouge Park)
For 13 years, the Government of Canada, through FedDev Ontario has worked to advance and diversify the southern Ontario economy through funding opportunities and business services that support innovation, growth and job creation in Canada’s most populous region. The Agency has delivered impressive results, which can be seen in southern Ontario businesses that are creating innovative technologies, improving productivity, growing revenues, creating jobs, and in the economic advancement of communities across the region. Learn more about the impacts the Agency is having in southern Ontario by exploring our pivotal projects, our Southern Ontario Spotlight, and FedDev Ontario’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.
Toronto is home to more than 2.9 million people whose diversity and experiences make this great city Canada’s leading economic engine and one of the world’s most diverse and livable cities. As the fourth largest city in North America, Toronto is a global leader in technology, finance, film, music, culture and innovation, and consistently places at the top of international rankings due to investments championed by its government, residents and businesses. For more information visit the City’s website or follow us on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.